The supersized grille of the recently-unveiled BMW 4 Series caused some shock waves. Picture: SUPPLIED
The supersized grille of the recently-unveiled BMW 4 Series caused some shock waves. Picture: SUPPLIED

BMW recently caused a social media tizzy when it revealed the all-new BMW 4 Series with an enormous grille. To understand the sense behind the madness, Phuti Mpyane had a chat with Domagoj Dukec, the Croatian who heads up BMW’s design department.

Phuti Mpyane: Does the enormous new grille signify a new direction in BMW design language or is it merely a feature of the new 4 Series?

Domagoj Dukec: The new grille doesn’t symbolise the execution of kidneys for BMW going into the future. It’s a particular solution and design expression for the 4 Series. In the past the BMW kidneys were the strongest item which not only differentiated our products from each other but separated BMWs from our competitors.

As we were building the brand through the decades we were using similar design features and they got bigger or smaller in the process. This is an important exercise when you build a company which is now more than 100 years old and established.

The design aspects of the 4 Series coupe and other even numbered BMW cars are more irrational or expressive rather than functional, thus customers of the BMW 4 Series expect that the most important icon of the design, which is the kidney grille, and which has never been seen like this before, must reflect their customer’s showy characteristics.

PM: In future,, can we expect to see such bold kidney expressionism on other coupes, perhaps in the 8 Series?

DD: No, not necessarily. The design strategy aligns with the different customer profiles for different BMW products. For instance, a BMW 2 Series customer is likely to look at it this smaller range as a raw drift machine while the equally expressive but larger 8 Series is more about luxury. We believe customers should always get the best product without compromising their needs.

Domagoj Dukec describes himself as an “emotional rationalist”, pointing to inspiration from the art world – figures such as Michelangelo and Karl Lagerfeld. Picture: SUPPLIED
Domagoj Dukec describes himself as an “emotional rationalist”, pointing to inspiration from the art world – figures such as Michelangelo and Karl Lagerfeld. Picture: SUPPLIED

PM: How did you justify the grille to the BMW board?

DD: Of course we had to convince our board, which wasn’t too hard. We explained to them that if you take away this kidney the car is beautiful, granted, but it would be just a smaller 8 Series or another coupe version of the BMW 3 Series. It can’t be.

Design is not about pleasing everybody, it’s about standing out. Agreed it’s polarising but when the critics see it on the streets they will notice how it’s differentiated from everything else. BMW has a strong brand and image all around the world. We have to show that we are not following, but rather we are leading.

PM: Both the M4 and I4 concept car have a similar grille; what’s the strategy here?

DD: Let me say that in the future, the company strategy where sustainable mobility is concerned  is that BMW customers will have a different powertrains to choose from. Those looking at an electric drive variant are set to opt for the i4 and those who want conventional engines will have our normal engines.

With design also needing to satisfy technical elements, the i4 grille is more digitalised as demanded by that particular model and the one on the M4 needs to fulfil the requirements of its performance potential. At the same the grilles need to express the expectations of their eventual customers.

Effectively this means all three appeal to different customers and thus their grilles will have the same character but with different exaggerations.     

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